Tuesday morning news: March 27, 2018

Russian diplomats » All eyes are on the Kremlin today for reaction to both the U.S. and European nations expelling dozens of Russian diplomats.

On Monday the U.S. kicked out 60 Russian officials and ordered closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle. The moves came in response to Russia’s suspected poisoning of one of its former spies and his daughter earlier this month in Britain.

White House spokesman Raj Shah—

SHAH: With these steps, the U-S and our allies and partners around the world make clear to Russia that actions have consequences. We stand ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behavior. 

More than a dozen European nations also expelled Russian diplomats Monday. European Council President Donald Tusk said there’s little doubt who carried out the attack in Britain.

TUSK: It is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation.

The Trump administration opted to close the consulate in Seattle due to its proximity to a U.S. Navy base— accusing Russian intelligence agents there of working under diplomatic cover.

Russia denies any involvement in the UK poisoning and has not yet announced whether it will expel U.S. and European diplomats in retaliation.

Russian fire » And in Russia— firefighters battled a deadly shopping mall blaze that has claimed the lives of at least 64 people.

Russian authorities have now arrested four people in connection with that fire in Kemerovo, Siberia— suspecting them of negligence and violating fire safety codes.

Investigators say it appears the fire exits inside the mall were locked. They’ve not yet determined a cause for the blaze.

Sacramento protests » Tensions remain high in Sacramento, California, after the police shooting of an unarmed black man last week.

At a news conference Monday— an emotional grandmother of Stephon Clark joined civil rights leaders demanding criminal charges against the officers.

THOMPSON: Justice, I want justice for my baby. I want justice for Stephon Clark. Please give us justice.

Stephon Clark’s grandmother Sequita Thompson.

Sacramento police officers encountered Clark—in his grandmother’s backyard—while responding to a report of someone breaking windows. The officers say they thought he was pointing a handgun at them, prompting them to shoot at him 20 times. Investigators found Clark had only a cellphone.

AUDIO: Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark!

The incident sparked several days of protests in Sacramento last week— at one point closing down Interstate 5 in the city.

The officers who fired on Clark have been placed on paid administrative leave pending a use-of-force investigation.

Bill Hybels latest » Willow Creek Community Church Pastor Bill Hybels is denying accusations of sexual harassment reported by the Chicago Tribune last week— and leaders of the Chicago-based megachurch are backing him.

The newspaper interviewed people who said Hybels made suggestive comments, gave extended hugs, kissed one woman without permission, and had an extramarital affair with a woman who now denies it happened.

Over the weekend— church elders told members they knew about the accusations, hired outside counsel to investigate them, and found them unsubstantiated. Hybels has called the accusations “flat out lies.”

Remington bankruptcy » 

AUDIO: It’s the dawn of a new era in Remington country … the new AR-15 VTR and AR-25 modular repeating rifles from Remington … 

A new era indeed for 200-year old gun manufacturer Remington Arms. The company filed for bankruptcy protection Monday.

The North Carolina-based Remington experienced a slump in gun sales in 2017.

That year— firearm background checks— a strong indicator of sales— declined at the fastest rate in the 20 years the FBI has tracked that data.

Remington has secured $100 million in loans to continue operations while it reorganizes. It’s unclear what will happen to the company’s 3,500 employees.

I’m Jim Henry. Straight ahead: Emily Belz on how the government is spending money to combat the opioid epidemic. Plus, Cal Thomas on Washington’s spending spree. This is The World and Everything in It.

(Renee C. Byer/The Sacramento Bee via AP) Hundreds of protesters demonstrating against the fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark shut down Interstate 5 in both directions in downtown Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, March 22, 2018.

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